LIVING A DYING LOVE
an Autobiography by Bryan H. Joyce
This article was submitted by Bryan H. Joyce, author of previous
"Tavern Stories". We considered it worth publishing as Bryan, one
day, will surely become a celebrated writer...
This article has appeared in "STUNN", too, but in a form with
Unlike all other articles, no quotes have been added by the
editorial staff in order to preserve the integrity of this piece.
Hi! I am a science fiction writer called Bryan Henry Joyce.
Look, that's me there just below the title. You probably haven't
heard of me as I am just at the start of my career. I am called
by that name for it is the name which I was given. I wasn't
consulted in the matter, for that is the way in which these
things are done. Like Pip said in the film of "Great
Expectations", "whether or not I will be the hero of my own life
remains to be seen." My life started long before I was named, but
I guess the name is a good one for I have no desire to change it.
This narrative is my own thoughts and ramblings on the meaning
of life. Not your life. My Life. Parts of it will not be much
fun. Life is like that, but the bitterness always comes with an
underlying sweetness. Life is a process of using the good times
to help you come to terms with your own eventual demise (I've
come closer than most). Once that fact is fully appreciated the
true ridiculousness of the situation can be focused upon. Life
and love are full of happiness and sadness, but everything is
full of humour. Sometimes too much humour. Many moments of my
life have emulated a badly written sit-com.
Hey, hasn't everybody's?
For example, I am 29 years old at the moment. I rarely socialise
and I'm what the unenlightened would call a computer freak. I've
never had a proper job and I'm in love with a beautiful woman
who's in love with me, yet we rarely see each other. I was the
worst at English in my class, yet I'm starting to get places with
my science fiction. I've never had any money, yet I'm typing this
on a computer which at the time I built it would have cost nearly
a thousand pounds to buy.
Crazy, huh? But where is the humour in all that? Oh it's there
all right, if you like irony! I'd like to tell you about it all,
but where do I start?
How about the time when I was ten when I agreed with my friends
that the age thirty was incredibly old. We would be better off,
in a few years time, killing each other rather than letting
ourselves get as old as that. I'm thirty years old next year.
It's rather a nice age to be. To the real youngsters you're old
enough to respected. To the proper grown ups your old enough to
be taken seriously.
Don't we all talk a lot of crap when we're 10 years old?
"Look to the mote in thine own eye," said the Devil to God.
"Will you cast the first stone?" he continued, then laughing he
added, "I think not!"
God just shrugged and walked away.
Three of my loves are Computers, Science Fiction and
We'll leave the computers out for the moment and make a quick
comment about Rock'n'Roll. In their song, "Rock'n'Roll Ain't
Noise Pollution", the band AC/DC said the most poignant thing I
consider to have ever been said about rock music; to wit,
"Rock'n'Roll is just Rock'n'Roll." You can't really say more than
that, can you?
That just leaves my middle love, science fiction. Here's what
Frederik Pohl said about his love of science fiction at the end
of his autobiography entitled "The Way The Future Was."
"You don't love a person just because she rewards you. The
person is rewarding because you love her. So it is with me and
science fiction. For the gifts she has given me I am truly
grateful. But I loved her on sight, giftless, and it looks as if
I'll go on doing it as long as I live."
I guess things are the same for me. My mother tells me how -
back in 1963 - at a few months old I would sit up in my pram and
watch "Doctor Who" on our tiny black and white television set.
Sometimes you are drawn to a subject for no reason at all. It
just happens that way. I've been writing science fiction now -
with the occasional foray into other realms - for nearly thirteen
years and boy are my fingers tired (groan).
I am finding it quite difficult to get into this autobiography
because I just don't really know where to begin. Life is just too
holistic to identify starting points accurately. "Synchronicity"
may be a nice song by a band called the Police, but it is a bit
of a bummer to trace when your writing an autobiography.
This is not the first time I've tried to write an autobiography.
In December of 1990 I was rushed to intensive care as the result
of several years of major illness.
13/10/84 - My novel "Starigrade" is stuck at page 108. I can't
be bothered finishing it as I've an idea for another novel called
"Herman" about the things that happened on the CB radio. Don't
think that I will finish "Starigrade" or start "Herman" 'cause I
don't care enough about either of them to be bothered. I feel ill
all the time and the world is full of crap, Why, oh why do I feel
ill all the time? The doctor keeps on saying that it's just the
flu. Something's wrong and it's mucking up my life. What the hell
is it? So much for 1984.
(Paraphrased from the diary of Bryan H. Joyce)
When I got out of hospital in January 1991, I started to write a
fictional account of my experiences during my illness called, The
Thirteenth One. It was so called because I had had been on
thirteen major training schemes or part time jobs. I scrapped it
because it was too depressing and personal, but -since it is
fairly accurate - I suppose that bits of it might be suitable for
inclusion in this narration later.
Here is an example of how depressing it was....
All consuming Pain. The sort of pain only a practising masochist
can dream about. Red hot. Screaming. Let me die. Billion volts of
soul-ripping gouging pain. All personally demonstrated in the
privacy of your own home. Yes folks, for a small mystery payment
you too can have your own personal hell bound trip into the
twilight zone. See how you squirm. See how you sweat. Learn how
to gasp sentences through gritted teeth. And it's all available
now. Right now. Out of the blue.
(Opening para from The Thirteenth One)
This autobiography was actually started about two months ago. I
completed the first page and then put it aside. Last Saturday I
had I phone call from Dave Burns of "Stunn" magazine. He wanted
to know if I was still writing and, if so, why hadn't I written
anything for "Stunn" for ages? I promised that there was a new
Tavern story on the way and he would receive it from me soon.
That reminds me - Dave, what happened to that modem card you were
To cut a long story short, I decided that the new story would
take too long to finish. Since Dave would need something to keep
him going in the meantime, I decided that it was time to get this
I think its time to take a leaf out of the Douglas Adam's book
("Ah, that's where he got the word holistic!") "The Hitch-hikers
Guide To The Galaxy". He told the story of the book not by
talking about the actual book, (well, not much) but by talking
about some of the lives it affected. Well, I'm going to do the
reverse by talking about one of my own stories and how my life
effected it. The story in question is called "Love, Death And An
American Car". It is approximately 5000 words long and is the
second of a series of stories set in the Tavern At The Edge Of
Before I get to the actually story, I think I should tell you
how I became a writer. I often tell people that I became I writer
in order to improve my appalling handwriting, but the real reason
is not as clean cut as that. Truth is, it was an accident. Here
is how it happened....
My mother at one time did a bit of writing. She used an old
Adler typewriter. When she gave up writing the monster of a
machine was left to gather dust in my bedroom.
One day - sometime in 1979 - I was walking up to the shopping
centre with a friend called David when I heard an unwelcome voice
shout to me.
"Hey, Joyce! Come here. I want to talk to you!"
The voice came from somebody I had hated in school (I'll call
him Jim Doe because I can't remember his real name). Actually, it
wasn't just me who hated him, it was everybody. You probably knew
somebody like him yourself. He wanted to fit in, but he couldn't.
He had a truly bad attitude, but just didn't have the
understanding of human nature or the intelligence required to be
a bully. Instead, the only thing he was good at was irritating
everybody to death. He would drift from group to group being
tolerated until folk got sick of him and expelled him - sometimes
That day in 1979, I groaned at the voice, hurried my walking
pace that bit faster and pretended that I hadn't heard him.
Unfortunately, he couldn't be put off that easy. He ran up and
slapped me on the back.
"Hi!" he said.
"Hi Jim." I said. My pal David wasn't so polite.
"I've got something to tell you," he said, ignoring David's
rather crude remarks.
"What?" I said.
"I just want you to know that the next time I see you by
yourself, I will kick your 'kin head in!"
David made a remark that was along that line of that Jim Doe was
a very stupid woman's private part and couldn't fight sleep.
"I'll get you too!" he told David.
I shrugged, sighed, nodded and went on my way. Jim turned to
follow me and David kicked him hard on the backside. Jim uttered
a few more threats and suddenly left declaring that we were
lucky, "Cause my lunch is nearly ready and I'm starving!"
That incident started my writing career. Later that day I wrote
a short story on my mother's old Adler about a guy meeting a
monster in the park and the monster saying, "Come here. I want to
talk to you!" The story was untitled and was in three chapters.
The whole story fitted onto a single page.
These days, I write them a bit longer.
I've never ever did find out what Jim was going on about. It was
typical of the manner in which he behaved in school. I swear I've
never thought about that odd incident again until I came to write
it down just now. I wonder whatever happened to Jim Doe? I really
do hope that he eventually grew up and became likeable, though I
No doubt, you're wondering what this has got to do with "Love,
Death And An American Car"? Patience dear reader. We'll get there
Having completed my first short story, I went on (just for fun)
to write a Monty Python style science fiction about a detective
in his thirties called Sam Sponge. It was called "The Man In The
White Boiler Suit". It isn't worth describing the plot here. It
ran to 6 pages and I never finished it. It was another odd
incident which prompted the writing of that particular piece of
nonsense. David and I were walking my dog Daisy (God rest her) in
a local park. On the way home, we went past a large field
containing one massive tree. In the field was a man wearing a
white boiler suit. He walked behind the tree and didn't appear
again. Needless to say, David didn't see the man at all. I don't
think I saw anyone either, it was probably a floater in my eye.
The tree was well over a hundred yards away and I wasn't wearing
my glasses at the time.
Sam Sponge and the "Man in the White Boiler Suit" have appeared
in dozens of unfinished short stories and a few unfinished
novels. After writing Sam Sponge's first unfinished short story I
decided to have a go at writing a novel.
Even although I could not type properly, spell, use grammar
correctly or grasp the fundamentals of plot structuring, I
managed over the next year or so to stretch my original one page
untitled story into a 102 page novel. It had the terrible title
of, "A Planet Called Spoof". The main character was a younger Sam
Sponge. It was a one off manuscript with not one word changed
after it had been typed. The mistakes were horrendous. The
grammar appalling and the slapstick plot non-existent. After
failing to get it published, I decided to join a writers group.
After winning last place in one of the writers group
competitions, I quit the group. I did some reading up on the
concepts of writing fiction. I had just read Larry Niven's
masterpiece "Ringworld", so I decided to write a proper hard
science novel. It took about three years and was called
"Starigrade". It ended up only about twenty or so pages longer
than, "A Planet Called Spoof". Although it was another piece of
rubbish, it was rubbish with a proper plot. The main character
was called John Brendan. He was an asteroid belt miner. I liked
him so much that he became the hero along with my dog Daisy in
one of my current projects the novel, "Angle Park" (it's looking
quite good so far).
Everything I wrote in the early years was pretty bad because I
still couldn't type or spell. Since it often took up to two hours
to type one page, there was not much chance of me re-writing
anything. I decided that I needed a word processor, but didn't
have the money.
At that time in my life I liked to listen to the band Meat Loaf.
An album appeared on the market by Jim Steinman called "Bad For
Good". He was the guy who wrote all the Meat Loaf hits. I bought
the album. It was and still is, bloody marvellous! Marvellous
except for one really bad narrative prelude to one of the best
tracks, "Stark Raving Love". It had to have been the worst thing
that I'd ever heard since Hawkwind had done their version of a
Michael Moorcock piece called "Sonic Attack". The only endearing
thing about Steinman's narration was the title. It was called,
"Love And Death And An American Guitar" (too many and's in it). I
liked the title so much that I changed it slightly and started to
write a story about a guy meeting his ideal woman in a car park.
Thus "Love, Death And An American Car" was born. Three hundred
words into the story and I was stuck. I wanted to write about a
guy who had got his head cut off and turned into a
superconductor. How could I connect that car park meeting with
the guy with the missing head? More importantly, what was the
story going to be about once that connection had been made? I
didn't know I decided to let the story sit for a while to see if
anything came up.
About then I read a novel by Spider Robinson that was called
"Callahan's Cross Time Bar" or some such thing. I had already
read some of Niven's "Draco's Bar" stories and wanted to write
some bar room tales my self. I had one small idea which I wrote
down in a few lines on a note pad which I promptly lost. Here's
what those lines were...
The Abcronxuddlern grinned with needle tipped poisoned teeth. A
drop of milky poison was licked from its thin lips with much
relish. It extended a massive hand on the end of one of its
almost skeletal arms, towards me. With a noise like a switchblade
opening, a stumpy, black splintered claw sprang out from its
"Here, allow me!" It growled.
A year ago, I would have fainted dead away with fright, but now
I just smiled and handed over the green crystal bottle. With a
pop of gases, the Abcronxuddlern levered off the stainless steel
cap from the beer bottle and handed it back.
Seven years later, I came across those few lines again and wrote
the first of the Tavern stories. I also discovered the original
300 word version of "Love, Death And An American Car", but now I
knew how to write the story. I was unable to write it before
because it was a tale from the Tavern, but I hadn't known that
because I hadn't yet invented the Tavern! More about that later.
As I wasn't getting anywhere with Sci/Fi, a change of style
seemed imminent. What would the new project be?
I researched the market and discovered that Stephen King was
probably the richest writer on the planet. It was time to write
my first horror novel.
The new novel was called "Herman". I'm not going to tell you the
plot here because it's never been done before and I'm using it in
the new Tavern story (entitled "The Jawman"). When it reached 80
or 90 pages, I scrapped it supposedly because it was too violent
and had too much swearing. In reality, it was scrapped because I
was feeling far too ill all the time to be bothered writing
anything. I told myself that writing would be much easier if I
got that word processor that I was thinking about. I went out and
bought a Commodore 64. Big mistake!
The software was "Mini Office". The C64's memory was so limited
that by the time I had loaded "Mini Office", there was only room
left for about a dozen pages (actually, I don't think it was even
as much as that) and there was no spell checker. Example of the
C64's limitations - during the course of writing this on my PC
I've moved a block of text bigger than the maximum document size
allowed by the C64's memory.
While the C64 is an okay computer, you can't type novels on it
particularly without a disk drive, extra memory or a printer. The
lack of a spell checker was a disaster. It had been the main
reason for buying the thing in the first place. I had to find out
more about computers.
Since I was on the dole, I went and asked if there was any
computer related training schemes about. There was and I went on
one. Not straight away though. It took 3 months of mucking about
before I got a phone call from someone called John (we ended up
good friends) at the local Employment Training Centre. Could I
start tomorrow? You bet ya!
The computer department was in the process of being set up so
their wasn't a lot happening. Resources were 3 Apple Iie's and a
BBC B. There wasn't even a full time tutor. John did the tutoring
as well as his main job simply because he had a love of
computers. The important thing - for me - was the chance to
discuss computer related topics with like minded people.
After a few months I got a second-hand computer called an Atari
520 STFM. The FM bit on its name stood for Frequency Modulator
which meant that it could be attached to a TV just like the C64.
It had a single-sided floppy disk drive and loads of memory when
compared to a C64. John had let me use his own ST on many
occasions and helped me to raise the money to buy the second-hand
The new computer was great! It was wonderful! It could do
anything. But it still didn't have a printer and I didn't feel
well enough to want to do any writing anyway.
Nearly a year went by. I doubled the memory capacity of the ST
up to one megabyte and fitted a double-sided disk drive, but
still didn't do much other than play games or muck about.
Then around the second week in December of 1990 my life was to
change suddenly forever. It was a Monday and I felt very ill
indeed. By Tuesday night, I was in surgery for several hours. It
was supposed to have been an exploratory, but when they opened me
up it was found that my pancreas was apparently not working at
all. The flesh had rotted and the resulting extremely corrosive
slime was irritating my other organs. What was left of my
pancreas had swollen up and looked dead. A lot of it was cut away
and my other organs had to be cleaned. In the bowel is a valve
which stops the excrement from coming up from the intestines and
into the stomach. I had been so violently sick that the valve had
jammed open and my stomach was full of excrement. In order to
deal with these things they had opened me up from my groin to the
bottom of my ribs.
By midnight, it was certain that I was going to die and by
parents were rushed out to the hospital. I flatlined on the ECG
machine several times, but didn't die for more than a few seconds
at a time.
When I pulled through the operation by a narrow squeak, the
doctors told my parents that I would probably be in a coma as the
trauma would have been too much. When I didn't go into a coma,
they then said that it would be several days before I woke up and
I might be a vegetable. Wrong again! A few hours later, I woke up
in intensive care annoyed that I couldn't find my glasses.
Everybody was amazed except me! As I had been wheeled into the
operating theatre the night before, I had made up my mind to do
something. I was so determined to do this thing that death would
have been a great inconvenience. When Death came for me, I did
like Flash Gordon and told it to, "Zark Off!"
The operation scar was very large and looked like two bits of
raw steak that had been sewn together. To the left and right was
two holes in my abdomen through which large pipes carried the
poisonous fluids out of my body. There was about six drips going
into a network of taps which went into my left arm and by way of
a long internal tube went more than a foot into the blood vessel.
The ECG heart machine worked through three pads stuck onto my
chest. There was a probe clipped onto my right index finger. What
it did was to shine a light onto the skin and measure the amount
of redness that bounced back. With that information, it could
work out if there was enough oxygen reaching my blood stream from
the oxygen mask that I was wearing. On top of all that, a urinal
tube was also in position. Just as well. It would be a long time
before I could go to the toilet again.
What follows is a drastically re-written excerpt from my
unfinished novel the Thirteenth One. All the fictional bits have
been taken out and what remains is very accurate. Bits of it
might seem to you to be very contrived and in places theatrical,
but it was originally written directly after coming out of
hospital when the pain was all too fresh in my mind. I wouldn't
have written it in such a manner today for I am detached from it
by two years. You'll have to forgive the intensity of the
excerpt. If I had toned it down then you would never be able to
understand why the experience had such a profound effect on my
life and, by obvious association, my writing.
That morning I was confused, melancholy, nauseous, dizzy, jumpy
and had a splitting headache. The pains in my stomach and chest I
put down to stress or nervous tension.
It was December 1990 and, though I didn't know it at the time, I
Walking to work that day was miserable. It was pouring down with
freezing cold rain and the north wind was howling something
chronic. The last time I'd been out in weather so foul had been
about eight years ago when myself and David had hired a cheap
caravan at a site down at Berwick upon Tweed in January.
What a holiday that had turned out to be! We had planned to do a
cycling trip of the numerous historical sites using the caravan
as a base. It started off straight away as a lousy trip and got
worse in a hurry. We almost didn't get there at all as the
weather was so bad. On arrival, we got snowed in. The roads were
blocked for a week. The caravan's water pipes froze solid. The
gas only worked when it felt like it and the caravan park was
crawling with cops all week because one of the locals who stayed
there all year round had disappeared under strange circumstances.
Turns out that the guy had taken a short cut across the frozen
lake and fell through the ice. It had frozen over the top of him
and snowed on top of that.
I really shouldn't have gone to work that day as I felt really
bad. I had been feeling pretty bad for a long time, but was worse
than usual because I was also really depressed. At the weekend I
had asked out a woman friend whom I had known for a long time and
fancied something rotten. I was sure she would have gone out with
me, but she said no. Not only that, she no longer wanted to be
friends with me when she found out that I thought about her in
THAT way. I've never had any luck with women.
By 3 O'clock that day, my head was throbbing like a virgin
inside a prostitute. I'd had enough for one day. It was time to
go home. Little did I know that it was going to be three months
before I would be back.
On my way home, I went to the corner shop and bought twenty low
tar cigarettes because they didn't sell low tar in tens. Although
my head was still throbbing and I felt as depressed as it was
possible to be without actually being suicidal, I bought a bottle
of strong wine and took it home.
That evening, my pal Andy came over to see how my date had went
at the weekend. I explained that it hadn't and he watched me
drink my wine. Later, I want back to the shop for a second bottle
of wine. I was feeling so ill that I decided not to open the
second bottle and instead went to bed early. Before falling
asleep I lay in the dark listening to the rush of blood in my
ears, the drum beat of my heart and thought about woman for a
long time. Nothing rude, mainly it was thoughts about wasn't it
time I thought about getting a proper relationship. By proper, I
meant for longer that the usual two or three months. After all,
it was 1990 and I was 27 years old. Depressed I rolled over in
bed and eventually fell into a tormented sleep.
Next day I awoke at four in the morning feeling truly terrible.
I toyed with the idea of reading from my note pad at the side of
the bed. It was there so that I could write down any interesting
dreams that I might have. In the nearby cupboard, was half a
dozen similar notebooks filled with assorted dream bumf. Now and
again I'd get an idea for a story, but ninety-nine times out of a
hundred it would turn out to be meaningless claptrap. I decided
not to bother and just lay there for some hours feeling very
The pain didn't start until almost seven in the morning. When it
hit it went from zero to a billion volts of pain in about five
minutes. It felt like I had a large white hot rock sitting under
the V of my ribs and had been kicked in the stomach by a horse.
For years I had experienced such pain every now and then. It
usually only lasted a few minutes. The pain had always been
unbelievable, but it had never been as bad as this before.
I lurched to the bathroom. Whilst I was sitting on the toilet I
was violently sick into the bath. The pain in my gut managed to
do the impossible and double in intensity. It was then that I
realised that I wouldn't be going into work that day.
Back in my room, I tried to get dressed and failed. The pain of
moving about was just too much for me. I sat on my bed for a
while. I toyed with the idea of banging on the wall or floor to
attract somebody's attention but decided against it. Sometime
later I lurched down stairs and into the living room.
"Could you walk me to the medical centre? I think I've got
appendicitis." I said to my father who looked shocked at the
sight of me. I was sure that it must be my appendix. In a telly
program seen years ago, somebody had said the pain caused by
appendicitis was the worst kind of pain there was. My pain
couldn't get any worse, could it?
"It doesn't open till nine O'Clock. The phones are manned from
the back of eight. I'll see if I can get you an emergency
appointment," my father said.
I guessed from the look on his face that I didn't look too good.
I was slick with cold sweat. By looking in the mirror over the
fireplace, I found out that I was as pale as death. Stupidly, my
only thought was that I looked like an android like Mr DATA from
the new "Star Trek" shows.
Waiting that hour for the phone call was torture. There was an
emergency appointment at eleven O'clock. There was no way I could
wait until then so I insisted to be allowed to phone my work and
tell them that I wouldn't be in today. Having done this, I waited
until ten to nine and set out with my father and someone else - I
can't remember who - to walk the quarter of a mile to the medical
centre. They wanted me to get a taxi but I wouldn't hear of it.
Why I insisted on walking I'll never know, the pain was so bad
that I found it difficult to talk.
The green prefab of the medical centre was normally only a slow
walk of less than five minutes away. We took more than fifteen
minutes to get there. The walk was in silence. I was too much in
pain to realise just how upset my father was (and whoever the
other person was). Half way there, I wished that I'd let them get
the taxi to run me there. By now I was really shaking and my
skin, which had been slick with sweat, now felt as if it was
covered in a thick layer of heavy icy moss. I had a bad moment
when I started dry retching, but it was over quickly.
When we got there, I had to wait for about ten minutes for the
doctor. My own G.P. wasn't available so I was taken by someone
The Doctor seemed quite concerned about me. He took his time
examining me and then had a word with me about what I'd been up
to the day before. He considered carefully before hitting me
straight between the eyes with the truth.
"You've got a stomach bug." He said.
For years, every time I'd felt like death warmed up and dragged
myself off to see a doctor, he usually told me that I've got a
bug or a bad dose of the flu. Each time I was told this, I felt a
great sense of relieve for I had increasingly begun to think that
there was something seriously wrong with me. This time his
explanation did not calm me down.
"Nobody feels like this, with only a stomach bug!" I said.
"Stomach bug. It's doing the rounds just now. A real stinker.
It's giving lots of people a fright. That and the bottle of wine
that you had last night. That's all that's wrong with you."
"But I wasn't drunk last night."
"Probably a bad bottle of wine on top of the bug."
"Have you...got a sick bag? Think am going to be...."
As I vomited, I brought my hand up to my mouth. Yellow gunge
spurted with force from between my fingers. A lot of it managed
to splash upwards onto my glasses or go down both the sleeves of
my 'yuppy' coat.
"Sink! Behind you!" He said calmly.
I spun round and leaned over the sink. My glasses fell into the
sink. The next blast of vomit was so forceful that it bounced
back out of the small stainless steel sink and hit me in the
Stupidly, I was vividly reminded of a sequence near the end of
the novel I'd written called "Starigrade".
...the last thing John Brendan remembered was the creature. It
opened it's leathery black mouth to take another bite out of the
rock. The beam from the tumbling laser fired into the animal's
mouth. The result was as unpredictable as it was unbelievable.
First the Starigrade's mouth slammed shut. Wouldn't yours? The
creature seemed to shrivel in upon itself. Then it suddenly
bloated out to more than twice it's previous size. The mouth
opened wide. As the creature tried to turn itself inside out, it
began to cough. It coughed light. Bright light. All consuming
light. The ultimate purifying flame. It coughed Starlight. After
a split second of orgasmic pain, there came the eternal darkness.
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